Is CAT Exam Tough? Is it really Tough to Crack | Learn How Tough CAT is

By Shubhra Anand Jain|Updated : November 23rd, 2022

How tough is CAT Exam? These are the most common questions by every aspirant before they journey to crack the CAT Exam. However, the answer to Is CAT Exam Tough depends on the accuracy and understanding of the candidates dreaming of joining IIMs. Common Admission Test, abbreviated as CAT, is a national-level MBA Entrance Test conducted by IIMs for admission into various MBA specializations.

The CAT exam's competition level is a little more challenging than the other MBA exam, as more than 2 Lakhs (approx) candidates appear yearly for this exam. So, to understand whether the CAT exam is tough or not, the candidates need to understand the difficulty level, exam pattern, and syllabus of this exam. In this article, BYJU'S Exam Prep experts have analyzed a detailed study on How Tough is CAT Exam is to guide the candidates on the right track.

Is CAT Exam Tough?

To determine the difficulty level of CAT, candidates need to get comfortable with the pattern of this exam. The competition level of this exam is high, and this high competition level makes this exam tough. The crucial areas of this exam include the eligibility criteria, question pattern, and CAT Syllabus. But if you are prepared well, then CAT Exam is not too tough to crack. Note the below section to understand the exam structure.

CAT Paper Pattern

The questions of this exam are of 2 types: MCQs and TITA. Additionally, there is a trend of CAT Negative Marking for every wrong answer. The total duration of this exam is 120 Minutes with 40 Minutes of sectional-time division.

The candidates can get questions from the below-mentioned 3 Sections.

  • Quantitative Aptitude (QA)
  • Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC)
  • Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR)

Note the below table to understand the chapters covered in this exam.

CAT Topics

Quantitative Aptitude (QA)

Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC)

Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR)



Set Theory






Reading Comprehension



Sentence Correction



Phrases and Idioms

Chart (Bar, Pie, Line, Pie)


Venn Diagrams


Coding and Deciding


Blood Relation

Clocks and Calendar

☛ See Also: CAT Exam Pattern

Marks Distribution in CAT Exam

The candidates also need to know the marking scheme of the CAT to get an idea of Is CAT Exam Tough? Knowing the marks distribution will help the candidates to make the best CAT Preparation strategies. The below table represents the latest CAT Marking Scheme.



Number if Section

3 Sections:




Total Number of Questions


Marks Distribution

+3 for Every Correct Answer in MCQ & TITA

-1 for Every Incorrect Answer in MCQ

No Negative Marking in TITA

CAT Time Duration

Some students take time constraints excessively, leading them to believe that the exam is difficult. It's important to understand that no one attempts all of the questions. You'd have to skip a few time-consuming questions and concentrate on those that take less time and are easier to score in CAT Question Paper.

We should focus on our strengths now that we know we shouldn't tackle all the questions. Many students focus on their weaknesses; however, this is not an intelligent practice, especially in competitive exams like the CAT; consequently, you must work on your strengths to pass the CAT.

Important Facts That Make CAT Exam Tough

There are essential factors that intensify the difficulty level of this exam. The candidates need to overcome this extra burden to ace the CAT smoothly. Now the question is, Is CAT Exam Tough? Note the below points to overview the criteria that make CAT Exam Tough.

  • Difficulty Level of the Questions: As per the CAT Exam Analysis, this exam has been moderately challenging over the past years. Because of the study techniques, the candidates need to study strategically to clear this exam.
  • Huge Syllabus: There is no definite syllabus for the CAT Exam, as the authority does not release any official syllabus. So, the candidates must be prepared by curating the previous years' papers. Additionally, the topics covered in this exam are enormous. Each section needs dedicated study to prepare well.
  • Unavoidable Competition: The competition level of this exam is high. Approximately 2 Lakh students appear every year to get various career opportunities, so there is a race to Score 100 percentile in CAT on everyone’s mind. From that viewpoint, CAT is tough.
  • High Cutoff for IIMs: Most of the top IIMs want a high CAT Cut Off for shortlisted candidates for final admission. If not prepared well, it will be quite difficult for the candidates to ace this exam with good CAT Result.

Is CAT Exam Tough - Know the Difficulty Level

The toughness of the CAT varies across the years and depends on various parameters. Below is an overview of the difficulty level of CAT Exam over the years. This is as per the student’s feedback and exam analysis.

CAT Exam

Conducting IIM

Difficulty Level of CAT Exam

CAT 2021

IIM Ahmedabad

Moderate. VARC was easier

CAT Exam 2020

IIM Indore


CAT 2019

IIM Kozhikode

Moderate Difficult Level, where VARC was slightly more complex.

CAT 2018

IIM Calcutta

Moderate Difficult

CAT 2017

IIM Lucknow

DILR was difficult while VARC was easier

CAT Exam 2016

IIM Bangalore

Difficult; therefore, CAT Cutoff was lower.

CAT 2015

IIM Ahmedabad

DILR was more difficult than VARC and QA


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FAQs on Is CAT Exam Tough

  • If you consider the difficulty level, then CAT is tougher than GMAT. It is because GMAT has a well-defined official syllabus. But in the case of CAT, there is no official syllabus. So, the candidates need more attention to prepare CAT Syllabus effectively.

  • CAT Exam is all about adequate preparation for specific chapters in VARC, QA, and DILR. The candidates only have to learn the tricks and formulas to solve the questions accurately. You can attend CAT Online Classes to get updated study material to ace this exam in one chance.

  • As per analysis, the overall difficulty level of CAT is moderate. But, if you start your preparation early, it will be easier for you to complete the syllabus first.

    Additionally, a well-planned strategy is also required to crack CAT. Just keep one thing in your mind, this exam evaluates your math and logical skills for 10th grade.

  • 3 years are enough for CAT Preparation. It is always better to start your preparation in the pre-final years of your graduate studies. The candidates can attempt CAT Test Series to analyze their position as per their strengths and weaknesses. 

  • It can not be said which exam is tough and which is not. It is wholly dependent on the conceptual understanding of the aspiring candidates. However, if you consider the difficulty level of CAT, it can be mentioned that you need a strategy preparation for every section of this exam to ace this exam quickly.

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